Saturday, February 21, 2015

An Exquisite Mystery

Prayer: the least and the most we can do
I've just finished doing something that made me feel bad. Really, really bad. I immersed myself in a vat of scalding pain.

Someone else's pain. The shell-shocked parents who lost their beautiful 24-year-old daughter to suicide with no warning. No symptoms. No good-byes.

The mom who went in to wake up her 21-year-old son for work and found him not breathing.

The writer friend my age who, out of the blue, suffered a debilitating stroke that will alter her entire life.

I immersed myself in their pain and I did it intentionally. Yesterday, today, and I'll do it tomorrow too. Over and over again.

Why? Because I wholeheartedly believe in Jeremiah 29:12: "Call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you" (NIV).

I have no idea how prayer works or even why. I just know that Papa God wants me to do it and do it a lot ("Pray continuously," 1 Thes. 5:17). In fact, there are over 400 verses in the Bible encouraging us to pray, every day in every way.

Prayer is one of those exquisite mysteries of faith ... that the Creator of All Things would actually want our input and for us to tell Him (even though He already knows) our desires and petitions blows my everlovin' mind. Yet He does. And He listens, just like He promised. My own experience has taught me that, and the recent experience of my friend Cheryl even further brings the truth home.

Cheryl works nights at a laboratory. She also plays piano for her church. Recently, Cheryl was asked to play for the funeral of a dear friend at her church at 11 a.m. on a weekday. She knew it would be tough, but she's not a complainer, so without saying anything to anyone about this sacrificial act of love occurring in the middle of her "night," Cheryl rushed home from work at 8 a.m. and set her alarm to awaken her at 9:30 in order to make it to the funeral on time. She collapsed into bed and was asleep the moment her head hit the pillow.

But Cheryl was so wiped out that she slept right through her alarm. Oddly enough, she suddenly awoke for no apparent reason at 10:45 (the alarm had stopped ringing long ago), fully alert and ready to leap out of bed. She was able to throw on her clothes and apply make-up at red lights, making it to the church in the nick of time.

At the luncheon after the funeral, an acquaintance - not a close friend by any means - approached Cheryl. "I just wanted to tell you," the woman said, "that when I woke up this morning, I felt strongly led to pray for you. I don't know why, but I just kept praying that God would help you in some special way today."

Cheryl was amazed as she realized that the prayers of this woman she hardly knew had woken her up. Her prayers had served as the catalysis for allowing Cheryl to serve Papa God and her grieving friends.

Yep, prayer always matters. Whether we're praying for a casual friend for some reason we can't fully comprehend or for someone who is hurting so badly we must allow our hearts to break alongside theirs, prayer always matters.

When have the prayers of someone else made a difference in your life?  


Saturday, February 14, 2015

And The Winners Are ...

Valentine's Day hugs and kisses to the winners of sweet love, love love!

Or at least a book about it!

The following 3 lovely (get it - love-ly???) ladies have each won a copy of my newest book Too Loved to be Lost in honor of this day when we celebrate the greatest thing besides Godiva: LOVE!!

Congrats to:
Kim Morgan
Angela Chestnut
Pam Proctor
(Girls, please send me your mailing addresses so I can pop your prizes in the mail!)

Many, many thanks to all of you who entered the drawing; stay tuned for the next contest coming round the bend. (So if you haven't already subscribed to my blog, be sure to do it so you won't miss any giveaways.)

In fact, to show my gratitude for your support, a few others who aren't on the winners list above might just receive a surprise gift as well, as my way of sending a little BBFF (Best Blog Friend Forever) lovin' your way.

So in honor of this beautiful day we celebrate love, I'd like to close with an excerpt from Too Loved to be Lost

"Love: We can either embrace it or disgrace it.

It's not about all the good deeds we can do, the money we can donate, the homeless we can feed. It's not what we do, it's why. Because when our inside-out focus reverses to outside-in, we lose sight of our upward purpose and fall into a downward spiral.

Christ-servers don't do things for others because of what we can get in return .We do them to spread Papa God's eternal love. To love others into His warm, welcoming arms so they can experience His incredible, never-ending agape love, too."

May you experience a Valentine's Day filled with incredible, never-ending love, dear BBFF!


Monday, February 9, 2015

A New Dent in my Fender

Now this cake I can make! 
One of the chapters in my newest book, Too Loved to be Lost, is about colliding with difficult people. It's called, appropriately, "Dents in My Fender."

So of course a collision occurred this week. Papa God loves to bring home these lessons I think I've learned. Poetic justice. A brand new whopper of a chink now desecrates my shiny chrome.

First you have to understand that Harry, as I'll call him, is the only brother of a dear friend of mine who passed away just last year. I'm still mourning and missing her every day. So when Harry e-mailed out of the blue (I've never been actual friends with Harry, mind you; in fact, I've artfully avoided him for three decades) to ask if Spouse and I would come to his birthday dinner in two weeks, I didn't hesitate. Of course we'd come. My beloved friend would have wanted it that way.

One additional thing you should know is that Harry has never had many friends of his own. He's one of those Mensa-types who's so brilliant he can't function on a practical level. Certainly not on a social level. "Blunt" and "tactless" are the two words that best describe Harry on a good day. He loves to hear himself talk. The handful of times I've been around him in the past, he's offended me repeatedly with his dogmatic leftist opinions and droning insistence of the worthless banality of Christianity.

I knew this. So what happened next shouldn't have come as a surprise.

The day before we were to meet at a designated restaurant for Harry's birthday celebration, he e-mailed me asking if I'd make him a birthday cake. Did you catch that this happened the day before the party?

By the grace of Papa God, I resisted my initial impulse to blast him with, "Are you KIDDING me????? Can't you find someone who actually likes you to make your cake? Do you have ANY idea how busy I am writing feverishly against a book deadline looming over my head while working overtime at the rehab clinic to cover for my sick daughter, plus taking care of my 3-year-old grandson while his mother is down and out?"

Saved by a rhino-in-the-road prayer for supernatural grace, what did finally issue forth from my tapping fingers was, "Sure, Harry. I'll make you a birthday cake. What flavor do you like best - vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or carrot cake?"

He immediately responded that he didn't like any of those. Couldn't I make him a hummingbird cake? He had tasted one once and liked it.

"No, Harry," I painstakingly typed back. "I cannot make a hummingbird cake. I have never made a hummingbird cake. I don't have a recipe for hummingbird cake. Besides my shotgun isn't working and I'd have to use my bow and arrow. Those critters are so tiny it would probably take 10 to fill up a measuring cup. Here are your choices within the parameters of my capabilities: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, or carrot cake. Pick one."

His reply was a link to a hummingbird cake recipe.

"Give me patience, Lord," I prayed. I knew that hasty words spoken in anger would make the best retort I would ever regret.

Taking a deep breath, I wrote back: "Harry, I'm sorry but I will not be able to make you a hummingbird cake on such short notice. Here are your choices once again: vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or carrot cake. Surely one of these will do."

He responded that he didn't like any of them. Vanilla was too blah, chocolate made him retch, and he abhorred icing of any kind, especially strawberry flavored and cream cheese frosting. Then came the request that completely turned the tide. "Can't you make a carrot cake but substitute pineapples for carrots?"

Okay, that one made me laugh. Thankfully, the inanity of this whole transaction eclipsed my irritation and after that, everything became hilarious fodder for Spouse and me to begin enjoying the absurdity it all.  My attitude toward Harry changed for the better. I was able to see him with more compassion and subsequently treat him with more tolerance.

Even when I tried to talk him into letting me make Spouse's favorite dessert, Pineapple Comfort Food, which is an unorthodox but magical culinary delight of pineapple blended with cheddar cheese (in case you're wondering, this mouth-watering recipe will be included in the Too Blessed to be Stressed Cookbook releasing this fall; hummingbird cake will not.)

"No. Cake. It has to be a cake," was his clipped reply. "It's a birthday CAKE."

Even when we arrived at the restaurant and I handed him the Happy Birthday balloon I had made a special trip to buy and it immediately floated up to the high ceiling completely out of reach. "Aaah, It doesn't matter," he said, shrugging. "I don't like balloons anyway."

Even when, while attempting to blow out the candles, he spit all over the pineapple upside down cake I'd spent another special trip buying ingredients for and two hours creating.

But you know what? Despite everything I actually had a nice time and would do it again in a heartbeat. Harry felt loved and celebrated by his six guests (all of which, incidentally, were Christians - that means everybody present at the table except Harry were dedicated Christ-followers. Not coincidental, I think. More of Papa's poetic justice. A divine irony which I hope wasn't lost on Harry).

And that's my point in Too Loved to be Lost. "Once we can understand and embrace the magnitude and breadth of Papa God's divine grace, we can begin reflecting the nature of Papa within us. It's because of His grace toward us that we can extend grace to others."

So what's the big hooha about a little relational fender bender? In the grand scheme of things, of what eternal importance is the state of my bumpy bumper?

When it comes to grace, actions speak volumes. Love and acceptance of Harry by Christ-lovers, when the rest of the world beats a path in the opposite direction, are what will finally demonstrate the truth. The truth that Papa God loves Harry - as He does each of us - from the bottom of His heart. And His heart is bottomless.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

New Book Giveaway!

This is what I'm wearing to work on Valentine's Day
During this Valentine season, discover the kind of love that is never too lost or too late.

From Feb 1-14, register for the drawing to be held on Valentine's Day for 3 copies of my book about unconditional love, Too Loved to be Lost. 

I'm hosting a simultaneous giveaway on Goodreads so you actually have a dandy chance of winning a book one way or the other!

I hope you're feeling the love I'm sending your way and will take a moment and click HERE to register.  (If for some reason the link won't work, hop over to my website and click on Too Love to be Lost giveaway under "contests").

Remember, Papa God loves us just the way we are - broken. But he also loves us enough not to leave us that way!  "Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5).